Rail Industry Focus


Making the best use of rolling stock

Source: Rail Technology Magazine June/July 2013

Conversion projects can significantly expand capacity without breaking the bank. Kate Ashley reports.

Without Government funding for new rolling stock, capacity can still be extended in a number of different and innovative ways.

RTM visited Wabtec’s Doncaster depot in April to see the refurbishment and conversion of 60 former Class 460 Gatwick Express vehicles to increase the length and number of services South West Trains that can operate into London Waterloo.

It is a complex restructuring project, combining elements of the old trains with 120 of South West Train’s existing Class 458 carriages, to create 36 five-car Class 458/5 sets.

An ‘unusual’ solution

The £42m scheme is funded by Porterbrook Leasing, which owns both fleets. The work has been contracted to Alstom and is being carried out by Wabtec Rail at depots in Doncaster and Loughborough.

The Class 458 trains will be reconfigured from four-car into five-car sets, and six additional units will be converted. The new sets will form 10-car trains to provide extra services on the Windsor lines from Hounslow, Reading, Weybridge and Windsor.

The conversion will leave four cars redundant – the driver’s cabs – which can donate their bogies to other engineering projects, be used as spares or scrap.

The chosen configuration allows the best use of all the cars.

Managing director of South West Trains, and lead for the SWT/Network Rail Alliance, Tim Shoveller, described it to RTM as an “unusual solution”, that would provide a “long overdue capacity upgrade”.

Remanufacturing existing rolling stock will allow SWT to accommodate growth whilst maintaining reliability; the operator expects thousands of extra passengers over the coming years, making this a long overdue capacity upgrade.

It is “a work in progress”, Shoveller acknowledged, but one that demonstrated reengineering “on a scale not seen in privatisation”.

Capacity without the cost

Engineering director for SWT, Christian Roth, said it had been suggested three times to the DfT that more Desiros should be built, but as an alternative Porterbrook proposed using existing trains to boost capacity.

Signalling has already been reconfigured and platforms along the route have been extended in preparation for the new trains.

The project will see a complete overhaul of the trains, including power supply and automative selective door opening for suburban stations where platform extension is not feasible.

The Class 460s have to be upgraded with GSM-R, as well undergoing work to address corrosion. The project was still “significantly cheaper” than buying new trains, and could increase capacity at half the cost, Roth said.

Work on the first trains was completed at the end of May. They were in service six weeks later, following the training of drivers and depot staff at Wimbledon. Trains will mainly be running on the Windsor line and the whole fleet will be complete by summer 2014.

Waste not, want not

It allows SWT to make use of trains that otherwise would be written off, adding cost and waste to other parts of the industry. Reengineering allows a number of such issues to be addressed whilst designing the trains for a modern service.

Piers Wood, customer director at Alstom, said it was a “huge publicity change” for the 460s, to be converted with the “very reliable” Class 458s, which would shift passenger perceptions.

The project was not starting from scratch, he explained, but merging two different products – the Class 460s and the Class 458s – into one. It will involve the procurement and insertion of 854 line items, 5,625 wiring changes, 664 new drawings (both mechanical and electrical), 166 new hazards, 51 engineering requirements, 45 different sets of calculations, and 5 bogie modifications.

Wood called the project “a great step forward”, and highlighted the good work the industry can do when it pulls together. He added: “Proof of the pudding will be when they are back in service.”

Inside and out

Interior work included floor replacement, rewiring, reconfigured seats into a 2+2 layout, air conditioning and lighting reconfiguring, as well as new toilets. There are fewer seats per car to give passengers more space to stand, and to increase capacity. The new structure is compatible with the SWT Desiro fleet.

The Class 460 trains have also been re-geared from 100mph to 75mph, with faster speeds not required on the new route, and to avoid overheating. Larger axles are being fitted on the leader trailer bogies to handle a greater crush weight with more passengers, and existing retractable gangways and couplers will be replaced between coaches.

Porterbrook said it was “one of the most complex things that has ever been done at the Doncaster depot”, but that good progress was being made.

Paul Francis, managing director of Porterbrook, said: “The deal on Class 458/5 clearly demonstrates the important role of rolling stock lessors in providing flexible commercial and engineering solutions to rolling stock provision alongside the purchase of new trains.

“In this case Porterbrook is investing £42m to deliver an important HLOS commitment for our customer. This increased rolling stock capacity will be delivered with only three years remaining of the franchise but Porterbrook can underwrite this long term investment.”


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